Home Bookselling Plan to provide free books to primary school children likely to impact small bookshops – The Irish Times

Plan to provide free books to primary school children likely to impact small bookshops – The Irish Times

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Irish booksellers plan to ask the Department for Education for more details about its plans to provide free textbooks to primary school pupils directly through their schools.

The move, which is expected to be announced in Tuesday’s budget at a cost of around 47 million euros, will end the practice of parents visiting local bookstores ahead of the new school year from September onwards. next year.

According to umbrella body Bookselling Ireland, some uncertainty remains over whether schools will be free to choose local suppliers or be forced to participate in formal tender processes, which many believe will undermine community stores.

“You don’t make a lot of money from them, you make a lot less than you would from normal books, but it saves people having a really quiet summer when everyone’s gone on vacation,” said Dawn Behan, group vice-president. chairman, who runs Woodbine Books in Kilcullen, Co Kildare.

“People love having a local bookstore and they love supporting it.”

Parents of primary school pupils spend an average of around €110 on books, most through some 130 independent retailers in Ireland who sell them. Store owners often rely on sales to attract customers to physical stores.

Ms Behan said the news surprised sellers on Monday when reports surfaced in the media. The organization gauges the feelings of its members before seeking to engage with ministry officials.

For Dermot Finegan, owner of Farrell & Nephew in Co Kildare, in an industry long distracted by stories of squeeze on margins, ebooks and discount online sellers, the government’s decision to stock primary school shelves for free for parents is only the last chapter.

“We are going to diversify and we will continue to provide a service,” he said, optimistic about losing some turnover in the fall. “They go [still] want the notebooks, they will want the pencils and I don’t know if the government will provide them with that.

After a successful trial among 100 Deis schools, more details on how the program will work are expected after Tuesday’s budget announcement.

What this means for stores, particularly small rural vendors, is unclear, but while some may benefit from a supply contract or continue to provide other essential supplies, a loss of business appears inevitable.

Yet changes in the bookstore industry are not unusual. As Mr. Finegan points out, “it sucks because they made [book] rentals in schools for years, so you’ll notice a slight drop.

Farrell & Nephew has about 20 elementary schools in the area it serves, but it has long since diversified its business. Opened in 1957, it first started selling textbooks in the 1970s before giving up and resuming some fifteen years ago.

The business model is changing — the store sells arts and crafts, toys, and gift items. Its 2,500 square foot floor has between 6,000 and 7,000 titles on its shelves.

Mr Finegan thinks the move could have more of an impact on small, rural stores, but he is not fazed by the expected Budget Day announcement.

“It’s not a problem,” he said. “People will always support the convenience store and the convenience service and the local independent. I think so, anyway.